Charles F M Saint – South Africa’s original surgical pioneer

J E J Krige, G Fieggen


Charles F M Saint, a 33-year-old graduate from the University of Durham, Newcastle upon Tyne, was appointed to establish the first department of surgery in South Africa (SA) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 1920. A mentee of the celebrated British surgeon, Prof. James Rutherford Morison, Saint’s distinguished surgical pedigree and exceptional academic and clinical achievements underpinned his astute leadership and legendary ability to inspire, essential qualities necessary for the founding professor of SA surgery. Saint’s imprimatur gave primacy to teaching and a priority to skilled, rigorous and fundamental undergraduate instruction, expounding the Morison-Saint philosophy, which made the department the seedbed of SA surgery. He was the first to introduce basic research programmes in clinical departments. During his tenure, Saint received wide international recognition and honours and when he retired in 1946, he had taught more than 1 300 students, trained 7 professors of surgery and over 40 specialist surgeons, instilling his distinctive brand of disciplined, caring surgery. In his 26 years at UCT and Groote Schur Hospital, Saint laid the foundations and built a department of surgery with a global reach and an enduring legacy at the southern tip of Africa.

Authors' affiliations

J E J Krige, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

G Fieggen, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Full Text

PDF (705KB)


Charles Saint; Medical education; Surgery; University of Cape Town

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2021;111(6):563-566. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2021.v111i6.15529

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-05-31
Date published: 2021-05-31

Article Views

Abstract views: 1609
Full text views: 746

Comments on this article

*Read our policy for posting comments here